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Blue Ocean Strategy for Podcasting

Coleman Insights founder Jon Coleman introduced Blue Ocean Strategy to Tuesdays With Coleman blog readers late last year in “Should Radio Go Back to Normal.” In short, brands that find themselves in heavily competitive crowded market segments are in metaphorical shark-infested, blood-laden waters. Hence, Red Ocean. On the other hand, some brands have established unique points of market differentiation in the minds of the consumer. This clear lane is the Blue Ocean. A few months ago, it struck me that podcasting resembles a Red Ocean in a number of ways. It is dotted with millions of shows whose names, logos, hosts, structure, and production sound similar. I wondered if there was an opportunity for podcasters to apply Blue Ocean techniques that brands in other market segments have successfully used to differentiate and make the competition irrelevant. That’s how the idea of my presentation, “Create A New Lane: Using Blue Ocean Strategy To Get Your Podcast Noticed,” which I shared at the Podcast Movement conference in Nashville last week, began.

As Jon pointed out in his December blog, Blue Ocean Strategy may have value for underperforming radio stations. Is it better to live in the shadow of a dominant competitor or blaze your own trail? When, for example, a station in your cluster is the third highest-rated CHR or second highest-rated Country station, is it more strategically advantageous to choose an untapped or underserved lane?

One way to look at available opportunity in podcasting is by reviewing the number of shows in each category in Apple Podcasts. For example, the general Science category has over 30,000 shows. Chemistry, a subcategory of Science, has only about 900. Should you publish a general Science podcast that may cover Biology in one episode, Physics the next, and Chemistry the next…or do you publish one that focuses specifically on Chemistry, hyper-targeted to those interested in the topic?

Chemistry podcasts

The Chemistry category contains about 900 podcasts, compared to over 30,000 in the general Science category

The Religion category is a massive Red Ocean, with over 150,000 shows. Christianity is a subcategory of Religion but is its own Red Ocean at over 90,000. Yet Hinduism, observed by 15% of the world’s population, represents less than two percent of the Religion category. Not to mention that India is the third largest podcast listening market. Whereas Religion and Christianity are Red Ocean, Hinduism is Blue Ocean. The most underserved categories? That belongs to swimming and volleyball, at only about 130 shows each. Total. As James Cridland of Podnews likes to say, “If you can’t rank in the Top 150 for swimming, you’re doing it wrong.”

Swimming is one of the most underserved categories in podcasting

This Red/Blue Ocean exercise can also apply to topics as opposed to categories. The Golden State Warriors are a hugely popular NBA franchise. If you search for “Golden State Warriors podcast,” Google’s algorithms will offer you many suggestions of shows that cover this topic. But do the same thing for “Stephen Curry podcast,” and you’ll find none. Zilch. Zero. But Google will recommend a golf podcast. Curry is one of the most popular athletes of all-time, yet there is seemingly no podcast focused on him. If you launched both today, which would have a better chance at acquiring new listeners? A general Warriors podcast amongst a sea of established Warriors podcasts or a Steph Curry one? The Golden State Warriors are Red Ocean. Stephen Curry is Blue Ocean.

Stephen Curry Podcast

A Google search for “Stephen Curry Podcast” shows a wide open Blue Ocean opportunity

Apply this exercise to your content, as a sales consultant that attended my session did. He explained to me that his podcast offers broad sales advice. The name of his show implies broad sales content. Now, he’s thinking about how to focus his show. He’s considering his target listener. Is it C-suite level? Sales managers? What market segment? A company that sells software for used car dealers has a podcast called – you guessed it – The Used Car Dealer Podcast. It’s a great brand building and lead generating show for them, though they wisely don’t use the show as a commercial. A podcast for car buyers (or even car dealers) is Red Ocean. A podcast for used car dealers is Blue Ocean.

When deciding to adopt Blue Ocean Strategy for your podcast, it’s important to remember you should not just pick a category or topic because it is underserved or narrowly focused. The content still has to be great. You must have a level of expertise, and put in the research and the work to make it so. But if you do, and the category or topic are Blue Ocean, you are increasing your chances of success.

Finally, it’s important to remember that Blue Ocean strategists don’t differentiate with just one thing. The greatest Blue Ocean brands differentiate in multiple ways. That means thinking about all the things podcast listeners see when they search for shows. The thumbnails look alike. The descriptions sound the same. The structure and production value is similar. Make a list and consider how you would Blue Ocean each item. The show name. The logo. The description. The sound. The host. The category. The topic. And so on.

Next stop: Blue Ocean!

Lessons For Radio From The Golden State Warriors

Tuesdays With Coleman

Do you manage talent? How about high-profile, high-ego talent? Although you likely don’t work in the sports world, you may find some pretty valuable lessons to be learned from a basketball coach.

Steve Kerr Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr sharing a moment with star player Steph Curry

I can’t tell you I’m not a biased Golden State Warriors fan. I’m totally biased. That being said, I’m no bandwagon fan, having grown up in the Bay Area. I attended my first Dubs game (well before anyone called them the Dubs) in the late 70s against Dr. J and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Like every other lifelong Warriors fan, I suffered for a very long time. In the 31 years between Al Attles’ departure in 1983 and Steve Kerr’s hiring in 2014, the Warriors went through 14 head coaches with a combined record of 1,168-1,426, a 45% winning percentage.

In four years, Steve Kerr has compiled a winning percentage of over 80%. There’s certainly something to be said for the massive amounts of talent compiled for him to work with, including All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. Surely there’s an argument to be made that a number of other coaches could have also won a substantial percentage of games with such a stacked roster.

So, this isn’t a lesson in compiling talent. It’s a lesson in keeping them content and performing at their best level.

Back in April, Jon Coleman wrote about the effect of research and analytics in professional sports. Kerr was an early embracer of research, with ESPN noting that Kerr “has proved willing to make adjustments based on feedback from the Warriors’ analysts.”

ESPN Analytics

So, embracing research has been part of the Warriors’ success. However, that doesn’t adequately take into account the human component. A program director may also choose to embrace radio perceptual research or show enthusiasm about implementing the results of an online music test.

If the team around the program director can’t execute properly or stay in sync, the station can fall short of expectations—just as sports teams do regardless of research or level of talent.

In February, the Warriors were starting to show the scars of the regular season. The team went 3-3 over the span of six games and were getting off to a slow start each night. Kerr was afraid his message wasn’t cutting through. So, what did he do?

He let his players coach a game.

Three players had a turn with the clipboard. They were in charge of motivating themselves. They were in charge of making substitutions.

The Warriors won by 46.

Just as a team stacked with the Warriors’ level of talent should win lots of games, the Warriors should have won the game that night against a poor Phoenix Suns team.

It’s an example of one of many tactics Kerr pulls out of his tool belt to engage his talent. Tricks like these lead to what sports website Real GM recently referred to as an “unusually harmonious locker room.”

How about that magical third quarter? Through Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors have outscored their opponents by 133 points in the third quarter in these playoffs alone.  Is the team doing something incredible at halftime?

Actually, yes.

The New York Times studied the third quarter phenomenon and discovered the Warriors coaching staff:

  1. Begins preparing for halftime when the game begins by identifying specific plays to review;
  2. Runs back and forth to the locker room to have clips assembled on a computer;
  3. Projects the clips on a screen while Kerr runs through them, one by one.

Ok, that’s not so revolutionary. It’s what Kerr does after he gives his take.

He wants to know what every coach has noticed. Then, he asks the players what they have noticed.

Zaza Pachulia has played for nine head coaches in the N.B.A. and says he’s never been part of a more democratic locker room.

Many radio program directors who have embraced research are overseeing stations with strong developed brands and are experiencing substantial ratings success. Those who manage high profile talent may consider looking to Kerr for ideas for getting the most out of them.

Sharing the research, getting buy-in on the plan, and collaborating. Talking with instead of talking to.

That approach just may accelerate your results (and lower your blood pressure).